There's no way that anyone who's googled HIPAA in passing could earnestly believe this. What stands out about this lie is that it's pretty clearly not spreading from a place of genuine confusion or an honest mistake. It's malicious disinformation targeted at people who might genuinely worry about being conscientious and respectful of privacy.
The lie seems to have endured for months because it's not so bizarre as to be obviously false to people who happen to be totally unfamiliar with HIPAA—whereas a lie like, say, tracking devices or 5G conspiracies come off reading like the Mad Libs they are.
In ways it's the opposite of what HIPAA does. The law's aim is to give people control and autonomy in how and when we share our own medical information. And it continues to do that. But it doesn't mean you can't, as a patient, say what you want.
HIPAA doesn't stop you from sharing your health information if you want to.
HIPAA doesn't ban people from asking you questions.
HIPAA does prevent people from talking behind your back, essentially, about your medical history. HIPAA is meant to protect your health records/data by preventing doctors and hospitals from disclosing without your express consent. When you share something with your health-care provider, you're meant to have the peace of mind that it's not going to be used by insurance companies or employers or anyone else to discriminate against you.
There are restrictions that prevent employers from asking employees about their medical history or health status, and those are also directed at preventing discrimination. But those come through the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and are not meant to facilitate spread of lethal infections to coworkers. Employers are allowed to ask questions that are germane to the functioning of the workplace (e.g. "Sir, this job as a Lifter of Heavy Boxes requires lifting heavy boxes. Are you able to lift heavy boxes?" "As our security guard, are you able to wield the fake pistol we'll issue to you with convincing authority?" "Are you able to drive a fork-lift? The job requires most just doing that. And yet, I'm told, when you were touring the warehouse, you saw a forklift and were heard to exclaim What demon is that while running to seek cover." )
Since COVID is an extremely contagious infectious disease, employers can take measures to protect their employees as a group. What your employer couldn't do, because of HIPAA, would be to go to your doctor's office or hospital and demand to see your medical records. (Well, they could do that, but they'd be laughed out of the room. If the good people working in medical records still possess the ability to laugh.)
This claim is too bizarrely antithetical to the truth. I can't believe it has origins in an honest mistake or a good-faith interpretation. But it's just insidious enough to have a stagnating effect. We need to talk openly about vaccines. The more we treat talking about them like religion or sex or salaries, the worse off we all are. Speak speak speak, ask ask ask. This is how we build and maintain the social cohesion necessary to beat this and keep it beaten.
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